By Tom Hobbs I totally agree that ferry “Cuts draw life blood from communities” and “This is a death knell to a thriving community,” as described in the viewpoint in the Peak, January 15. Unfortunately, not one of the proposed actions addresses the basic need to make significant changes to BC Ferry Authority and BC Ferry Service (BC Ferries).
The estimated shortfall in 2013 for BC Ferries is $400 million and it has not yet started to pay for its much-needed ferry upgrades. Its operations compare terribly with Washington State ferries.
It is fiscally irresponsible to pour more money into both these organizations without first improving their operational management effectiveness and giving them a new strategic direction.
I also agree with the proposal made by Bill Ireland, in his “Ferry tales” letter to the editor on the same date, that we should look for a company that will run our own ferry service.
Along the Sunshine Coast, BC Ferries runs large ferries, at a $20-million per year loss, that go around our islands. This is in spite of increasing fares by 50 per cent. This must be stopped as it is far less expensive to select new short routes between our islands, build short roads across the islands and add segments of Highway 101 on the mainland. The land part of Highway 101 will be 15 kilometres longer and the very expensive sea travel distance reduced from 16 nautical miles (nm) to six nm. Typically, each ferry trip will be two nm and take 15 minutes.
These short routes make it possible to design new ferries that are one third the size of present ferries. It is possible to buy these very different ferries that we need to use as we go about our daily lives, and build short roads and two small bridges, about 700 metres, for less than the cost of one big ferry.
A Sunshine Coast ferry company using such small ferries will be profitable, especially so if it has nothing to do with a BC Ferry Service that costs so much to operate. We can further roll back ferry fares and increase sailings by amalgamating our two regional districts and unincorporated areas and get the new Sunshine Coast ferry service report to the chair of the new regional district. In addition, it should report to the Ferry Commissioner and a restructured BC Ferry Authority. This ensures the ferry service meets the needs of our communities and creates the maximum number of jobs along the Sunshine Coast.
Our leaders should be meeting with the federal and provincial ministers of transport to get their agreement and support for such an approach. Surely these ministers must support a proposal by industry to fund, design, build and operate our ferry service as it will both improve the economic development of the Sunshine Coast and also reduce the cost of operating BC Ferry Service at very little additional cost to them.
Tom Hobbs retired to Westview after a career in computer systems engineering operations research. He has created a Community Sector Discussion Document outlining his suggestion, which can be viewed here.